Christmas Sermon 2016
by the Rev Canon Dewi J. Ll. Roberts

The well known carol
"Hark the herald angels sing"
contains the following stanza :-
"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with us to dwell,
Jesus our Immanuel"
In the third line of this stanza we have :-
"Pleased as man with us to dwell"
This tells us that God delights to be human alongside human beings.
Let us ponder this uplifting insight for a moment.
Let us ponder the amazing reality that God delights to be with us.
Let us ponder the wonderful perception that God wants to share his life of love and joy with us.
God suspended disbelief and became flesh
in the womb of Mary.
GOD left that warm, consoling womb and dropped into a cold bed of hay.
The distant stars froze in place over a manger and intrigued learned men.
Then frightened shepherds came to adore Him
and the angels rejoiced.
Only GOD could have come up with this story.
Only GOD can get away with such a story.
Christmas is the manifestation of God's love overflowing towards us.
Christina Rosetti's poem tells us :-
"Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love Divine,
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and Angels gave the sign."
Yes, we see God's love in the story of the nativity.
We see it in the profound words of the carol "Hark the Herald Angels Sing".
We see it in all the great carols that we sing at Christmas.
But the Sacred Word reminds us also,
of the wonderful mystery,
that the love of God began long before
the actual birth of Jesus.
In actual fact there has never been a point in time when God began to love us.
For God's love is from eternity.
But on that very first Christmas God's love was manifest in a way beyond our greatest imagining, for as Rosetti beautifully says :-
Sometimes we imagine wrongly that we have to do great things for God's love to be overflowing towards us. But the message of Christmas is that God is always the Initiator.
God is always the Prime Mover.
He is the one who seeks us.
He is the one who wants to be with us, to delight in being human with us, sharing fellowship with us.
He became manifest in the flesh at Christmas.
He became manifest at a particular time in history :
"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see."
But His love for us has always been and always will be. God's very nature is to share his love and life.
And as Rowan Williams has said in one of his Christmas messages :-
"There is nothing of God that is not sharing.
There is nothing of God that is not giving. God holds nothing back. God gives what God is. There is no beginning to God's overflowing love. From eternity God bestows and gives and loves."
Often I sense that some people believe that God needs to be persuaded to love us.
But that is not what the story of Christmas is about.
That is not what the Good News is about.
Persuading God to love us would be like persuading a waterfall to be wet.
God simply is love. Always loving, always giving.
I read a sadly predictable and negative article a few days ago about religion which had the title :
"Five Reasons Why We should Keep Religion Out Of Our Christmas Celebration."
The second reason of the five was :
'that giving to others should not be conditional.'
Let me read to you what this part of the article said :-
"I don't want my son to give to others or volunteer his time to the less fortunate because, "That's what Jesus would do." I want him to give to others and volunteer his time to the less fortunate because it is the right thing to do.
While many organized religions - especially during the holiday season - carve out time to give back to their communities, I often time see that giving comes with a threatening fine print, along the lines of, 'This is what it takes to get into heaven.'"

Sadly, whoever wrote these words had no insight or comprehension of God's love
- of God's love overflowing towards us
- of God wanting to share his love with us - of God delighting in being with us.
Where is the threatening fine print in the Christmas story? - It is not there.
It is true that Christ came to turn the world upside down, to challenge all that's wrong with the world. And to give us a deeper understanding of what love is - so that we can live our life to the full in peace, love and harmony.
But there is no threatening fine print as this article suggests.
How can it be possible to twist the Good News of God's free and overflowing love to mean the opposite of what it is? - How is this possible?
Many seem to want to hear bad news and not hear any good news.
Many seem not to want to believe something that is unconditionally good.
"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with us to dwell,
Jesus our Immanuel."

In the world we don't get wonderful news often, or there is usually a catch. But there is no catch in the
Christmas story.
God is pleased as man with us to dwell.
God delights to be human alongside human beings.

So let us be filled with joy at God's love towards us this Christmas.
Let us be filled with joy at God's eternal love towards us,
manifest in such a particular way
in the babe in the manger.
Let us be filled with delight at God's delight
in sharing his life with us.
Emmanuel - God with us - God pleased to be with us.